Have a language expert improve your writing

Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.

  • Knowledge Base


  • How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates, and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

Instantly correct all language mistakes in your text

Upload your document to correct all your mistakes in minutes


Table of contents

What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
  • Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

Here's why students love Scribbr's proofreading services

Discover proofreading & editing

Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models, and methods?
  • Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

The only proofreading tool specialized in correcting academic writing - try for free!

The academic proofreading tool has been trained on 1000s of academic texts and by native English editors. Making it the most accurate and reliable proofreading tool for students.

literature review assignment sheet

Try for free

To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).


The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.


If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources


A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

  • Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

Open Google Slides Download PowerPoint

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility


  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

McCombes, S. (2023, September 11). How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved March 25, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/literature-review/

Is this article helpful?

Shona McCombes

Shona McCombes

Other students also liked, what is a theoretical framework | guide to organizing, what is a research methodology | steps & tips, how to write a research proposal | examples & templates, "i thought ai proofreading was useless but..".

I've been using Scribbr for years now and I know it's a service that won't disappoint. It does a good job spotting mistakes”

Grad Coach

How To Write An A-Grade Literature Review

3 straightforward steps (with examples) + free template.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | October 2019

Quality research is about building onto the existing work of others , “standing on the shoulders of giants”, as Newton put it. The literature review chapter of your dissertation, thesis or research project is where you synthesise this prior work and lay the theoretical foundation for your own research.

Long story short, this chapter is a pretty big deal, which is why you want to make sure you get it right . In this post, I’ll show you exactly how to write a literature review in three straightforward steps, so you can conquer this vital chapter (the smart way).

Overview: The Literature Review Process

  • Understanding the “ why “
  • Finding the relevant literature
  • Cataloguing and synthesising the information
  • Outlining & writing up your literature review
  • Example of a literature review

But first, the “why”…

Before we unpack how to write the literature review chapter, we’ve got to look at the why . To put it bluntly, if you don’t understand the function and purpose of the literature review process, there’s no way you can pull it off well. So, what exactly is the purpose of the literature review?

Well, there are (at least) four core functions:

  • For you to gain an understanding (and demonstrate this understanding) of where the research is at currently, what the key arguments and disagreements are.
  • For you to identify the gap(s) in the literature and then use this as justification for your own research topic.
  • To help you build a conceptual framework for empirical testing (if applicable to your research topic).
  • To inform your methodological choices and help you source tried and tested questionnaires (for interviews ) and measurement instruments (for surveys ).

Most students understand the first point but don’t give any thought to the rest. To get the most from the literature review process, you must keep all four points front of mind as you review the literature (more on this shortly), or you’ll land up with a wonky foundation.

Okay – with the why out the way, let’s move on to the how . As mentioned above, writing your literature review is a process, which I’ll break down into three steps:

  • Finding the most suitable literature
  • Understanding , distilling and organising the literature
  • Planning and writing up your literature review chapter

Importantly, you must complete steps one and two before you start writing up your chapter. I know it’s very tempting, but don’t try to kill two birds with one stone and write as you read. You’ll invariably end up wasting huge amounts of time re-writing and re-shaping, or you’ll just land up with a disjointed, hard-to-digest mess . Instead, you need to read first and distil the information, then plan and execute the writing.

Free Webinar: Literature Review 101

Step 1: Find the relevant literature

Naturally, the first step in the literature review journey is to hunt down the existing research that’s relevant to your topic. While you probably already have a decent base of this from your research proposal , you need to expand on this substantially in the dissertation or thesis itself.

Essentially, you need to be looking for any existing literature that potentially helps you answer your research question (or develop it, if that’s not yet pinned down). There are numerous ways to find relevant literature, but I’ll cover my top four tactics here. I’d suggest combining all four methods to ensure that nothing slips past you:

Method 1 – Google Scholar Scrubbing

Google’s academic search engine, Google Scholar , is a great starting point as it provides a good high-level view of the relevant journal articles for whatever keyword you throw at it. Most valuably, it tells you how many times each article has been cited, which gives you an idea of how credible (or at least, popular) it is. Some articles will be free to access, while others will require an account, which brings us to the next method.

Method 2 – University Database Scrounging

Generally, universities provide students with access to an online library, which provides access to many (but not all) of the major journals.

So, if you find an article using Google Scholar that requires paid access (which is quite likely), search for that article in your university’s database – if it’s listed there, you’ll have access. Note that, generally, the search engine capabilities of these databases are poor, so make sure you search for the exact article name, or you might not find it.

Method 3 – Journal Article Snowballing

At the end of every academic journal article, you’ll find a list of references. As with any academic writing, these references are the building blocks of the article, so if the article is relevant to your topic, there’s a good chance a portion of the referenced works will be too. Do a quick scan of the titles and see what seems relevant, then search for the relevant ones in your university’s database.

Method 4 – Dissertation Scavenging

Similar to Method 3 above, you can leverage other students’ dissertations. All you have to do is skim through literature review chapters of existing dissertations related to your topic and you’ll find a gold mine of potential literature. Usually, your university will provide you with access to previous students’ dissertations, but you can also find a much larger selection in the following databases:

  • Open Access Theses & Dissertations
  • Stanford SearchWorks

Keep in mind that dissertations and theses are not as academically sound as published, peer-reviewed journal articles (because they’re written by students, not professionals), so be sure to check the credibility of any sources you find using this method. You can do this by assessing the citation count of any given article in Google Scholar. If you need help with assessing the credibility of any article, or with finding relevant research in general, you can chat with one of our Research Specialists .

Alright – with a good base of literature firmly under your belt, it’s time to move onto the next step.

Need a helping hand?

literature review assignment sheet

Step 2: Log, catalogue and synthesise

Once you’ve built a little treasure trove of articles, it’s time to get reading and start digesting the information – what does it all mean?

While I present steps one and two (hunting and digesting) as sequential, in reality, it’s more of a back-and-forth tango – you’ll read a little , then have an idea, spot a new citation, or a new potential variable, and then go back to searching for articles. This is perfectly natural – through the reading process, your thoughts will develop , new avenues might crop up, and directional adjustments might arise. This is, after all, one of the main purposes of the literature review process (i.e. to familiarise yourself with the current state of research in your field).

As you’re working through your treasure chest, it’s essential that you simultaneously start organising the information. There are three aspects to this:

  • Logging reference information
  • Building an organised catalogue
  • Distilling and synthesising the information

I’ll discuss each of these below:

2.1 – Log the reference information

As you read each article, you should add it to your reference management software. I usually recommend Mendeley for this purpose (see the Mendeley 101 video below), but you can use whichever software you’re comfortable with. Most importantly, make sure you load EVERY article you read into your reference manager, even if it doesn’t seem very relevant at the time.

2.2 – Build an organised catalogue

In the beginning, you might feel confident that you can remember who said what, where, and what their main arguments were. Trust me, you won’t. If you do a thorough review of the relevant literature (as you must!), you’re going to read many, many articles, and it’s simply impossible to remember who said what, when, and in what context . Also, without the bird’s eye view that a catalogue provides, you’ll miss connections between various articles, and have no view of how the research developed over time. Simply put, it’s essential to build your own catalogue of the literature.

I would suggest using Excel to build your catalogue, as it allows you to run filters, colour code and sort – all very useful when your list grows large (which it will). How you lay your spreadsheet out is up to you, but I’d suggest you have the following columns (at minimum):

  • Author, date, title – Start with three columns containing this core information. This will make it easy for you to search for titles with certain words, order research by date, or group by author.
  • Categories or keywords – You can either create multiple columns, one for each category/theme and then tick the relevant categories, or you can have one column with keywords.
  • Key arguments/points – Use this column to succinctly convey the essence of the article, the key arguments and implications thereof for your research.
  • Context – Note the socioeconomic context in which the research was undertaken. For example, US-based, respondents aged 25-35, lower- income, etc. This will be useful for making an argument about gaps in the research.
  • Methodology – Note which methodology was used and why. Also, note any issues you feel arise due to the methodology. Again, you can use this to make an argument about gaps in the research.
  • Quotations – Note down any quoteworthy lines you feel might be useful later.
  • Notes – Make notes about anything not already covered. For example, linkages to or disagreements with other theories, questions raised but unanswered, shortcomings or limitations, and so forth.

If you’d like, you can try out our free catalog template here (see screenshot below).

Excel literature review template

2.3 – Digest and synthesise

Most importantly, as you work through the literature and build your catalogue, you need to synthesise all the information in your own mind – how does it all fit together? Look for links between the various articles and try to develop a bigger picture view of the state of the research. Some important questions to ask yourself are:

  • What answers does the existing research provide to my own research questions ?
  • Which points do the researchers agree (and disagree) on?
  • How has the research developed over time?
  • Where do the gaps in the current research lie?

To help you develop a big-picture view and synthesise all the information, you might find mind mapping software such as Freemind useful. Alternatively, if you’re a fan of physical note-taking, investing in a large whiteboard might work for you.

Mind mapping is a useful way to plan your literature review.

Step 3: Outline and write it up!

Once you’re satisfied that you have digested and distilled all the relevant literature in your mind, it’s time to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard). There are two steps here – outlining and writing:

3.1 – Draw up your outline

Having spent so much time reading, it might be tempting to just start writing up without a clear structure in mind. However, it’s critically important to decide on your structure and develop a detailed outline before you write anything. Your literature review chapter needs to present a clear, logical and an easy to follow narrative – and that requires some planning. Don’t try to wing it!

Naturally, you won’t always follow the plan to the letter, but without a detailed outline, you’re more than likely going to end up with a disjointed pile of waffle , and then you’re going to spend a far greater amount of time re-writing, hacking and patching. The adage, “measure twice, cut once” is very suitable here.

In terms of structure, the first decision you’ll have to make is whether you’ll lay out your review thematically (into themes) or chronologically (by date/period). The right choice depends on your topic, research objectives and research questions, which we discuss in this article .

Once that’s decided, you need to draw up an outline of your entire chapter in bullet point format. Try to get as detailed as possible, so that you know exactly what you’ll cover where, how each section will connect to the next, and how your entire argument will develop throughout the chapter. Also, at this stage, it’s a good idea to allocate rough word count limits for each section, so that you can identify word count problems before you’ve spent weeks or months writing!

PS – check out our free literature review chapter template…

3.2 – Get writing

With a detailed outline at your side, it’s time to start writing up (finally!). At this stage, it’s common to feel a bit of writer’s block and find yourself procrastinating under the pressure of finally having to put something on paper. To help with this, remember that the objective of the first draft is not perfection – it’s simply to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, after which you can refine them. The structure might change a little, the word count allocations might shift and shuffle, and you might add or remove a section – that’s all okay. Don’t worry about all this on your first draft – just get your thoughts down on paper.

start writing

Once you’ve got a full first draft (however rough it may be), step away from it for a day or two (longer if you can) and then come back at it with fresh eyes. Pay particular attention to the flow and narrative – does it fall fit together and flow from one section to another smoothly? Now’s the time to try to improve the linkage from each section to the next, tighten up the writing to be more concise, trim down word count and sand it down into a more digestible read.

Once you’ve done that, give your writing to a friend or colleague who is not a subject matter expert and ask them if they understand the overall discussion. The best way to assess this is to ask them to explain the chapter back to you. This technique will give you a strong indication of which points were clearly communicated and which weren’t. If you’re working with Grad Coach, this is a good time to have your Research Specialist review your chapter.

Finally, tighten it up and send it off to your supervisor for comment. Some might argue that you should be sending your work to your supervisor sooner than this (indeed your university might formally require this), but in my experience, supervisors are extremely short on time (and often patience), so, the more refined your chapter is, the less time they’ll waste on addressing basic issues (which you know about already) and the more time they’ll spend on valuable feedback that will increase your mark-earning potential.

Literature Review Example

In the video below, we unpack an actual literature review so that you can see how all the core components come together in reality.

Let’s Recap

In this post, we’ve covered how to research and write up a high-quality literature review chapter. Let’s do a quick recap of the key takeaways:

  • It is essential to understand the WHY of the literature review before you read or write anything. Make sure you understand the 4 core functions of the process.
  • The first step is to hunt down the relevant literature . You can do this using Google Scholar, your university database, the snowballing technique and by reviewing other dissertations and theses.
  • Next, you need to log all the articles in your reference manager , build your own catalogue of literature and synthesise all the research.
  • Following that, you need to develop a detailed outline of your entire chapter – the more detail the better. Don’t start writing without a clear outline (on paper, not in your head!)
  • Write up your first draft in rough form – don’t aim for perfection. Remember, done beats perfect.
  • Refine your second draft and get a layman’s perspective on it . Then tighten it up and submit it to your supervisor.

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Literature Review Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

You Might Also Like:

How To Find a Research Gap (Fast)


Phindile Mpetshwa

Thank you very much. This page is an eye opener and easy to comprehend.


This is awesome!

I wish I come across GradCoach earlier enough.

But all the same I’ll make use of this opportunity to the fullest.

Thank you for this good job.

Keep it up!

Derek Jansen

You’re welcome, Yinka. Thank you for the kind words. All the best writing your literature review.

Renee Buerger

Thank you for a very useful literature review session. Although I am doing most of the steps…it being my first masters an Mphil is a self study and one not sure you are on the right track. I have an amazing supervisor but one also knows they are super busy. So not wanting to bother on the minutae. Thank you.

You’re most welcome, Renee. Good luck with your literature review 🙂

Sheemal Prasad

This has been really helpful. Will make full use of it. 🙂

Thank you Gradcoach.


Really agreed. Admirable effort

Faturoti Toyin

thank you for this beautiful well explained recap.


Thank you so much for your guide of video and other instructions for the dissertation writing.

It is instrumental. It encouraged me to write a dissertation now.

Lorraine Hall

Thank you the video was great – from someone that knows nothing thankyou

araz agha

an amazing and very constructive way of presetting a topic, very useful, thanks for the effort,

Suilabayuh Ngah

It is timely

It is very good video of guidance for writing a research proposal and a dissertation. Since I have been watching and reading instructions, I have started my research proposal to write. I appreciate to Mr Jansen hugely.

Nancy Geregl

I learn a lot from your videos. Very comprehensive and detailed.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. As a research student, you learn better with your learning tips in research


I was really stuck in reading and gathering information but after watching these things are cleared thanks, it is so helpful.

Xaysukith thorxaitou

Really helpful, Thank you for the effort in showing such information

Sheila Jerome

This is super helpful thank you very much.


Thank you for this whole literature writing review.You have simplified the process.


I’m so glad I found GradCoach. Excellent information, Clear explanation, and Easy to follow, Many thanks Derek!

You’re welcome, Maithe. Good luck writing your literature review 🙂


Thank you Coach, you have greatly enriched and improved my knowledge


Great piece, so enriching and it is going to help me a great lot in my project and thesis, thanks so much

Stephanie Louw

This is THE BEST site for ANYONE doing a masters or doctorate! Thank you for the sound advice and templates. You rock!

Thanks, Stephanie 🙂

oghenekaro Silas

This is mind blowing, the detailed explanation and simplicity is perfect.

I am doing two papers on my final year thesis, and I must stay I feel very confident to face both headlong after reading this article.

thank you so much.

if anyone is to get a paper done on time and in the best way possible, GRADCOACH is certainly the go to area!

tarandeep singh

This is very good video which is well explained with detailed explanation

uku igeny

Thank you excellent piece of work and great mentoring

Abdul Ahmad Zazay

Thanks, it was useful

Maserialong Dlamini

Thank you very much. the video and the information were very helpful.

Suleiman Abubakar

Good morning scholar. I’m delighted coming to know you even before the commencement of my dissertation which hopefully is expected in not more than six months from now. I would love to engage my study under your guidance from the beginning to the end. I love to know how to do good job

Mthuthuzeli Vongo

Thank you so much Derek for such useful information on writing up a good literature review. I am at a stage where I need to start writing my one. My proposal was accepted late last year but I honestly did not know where to start


Like the name of your YouTube implies you are GRAD (great,resource person, about dissertation). In short you are smart enough in coaching research work.

Richie Buffalo

This is a very well thought out webpage. Very informative and a great read.

Adekoya Opeyemi Jonathan

Very timely.

I appreciate.

Norasyidah Mohd Yusoff

Very comprehensive and eye opener for me as beginner in postgraduate study. Well explained and easy to understand. Appreciate and good reference in guiding me in my research journey. Thank you

Maryellen Elizabeth Hart

Thank you. I requested to download the free literature review template, however, your website wouldn’t allow me to complete the request or complete a download. May I request that you email me the free template? Thank you.

Submit a Comment Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

  • Print Friendly

Kennesaw State University

  • Writing Center
  • Current Students
  • Online Only Students
  • Faculty & Staff
  • Parents & Family
  • Alumni & Friends
  • Community & Business
  • Student Life
  • Video Introduction
  • Become a Writing Assistant
  • All Writers
  • Graduate Students
  • ELL Students
  • Campus and Community
  • Testimonials
  • Encouraging Writing Center Use
  • Incentives and Requirements
  • Open Educational Resources
  • How We Help
  • Get to Know Us
  • Conversation Partners Program
  • Workshop Series
  • Professors Talk Writing
  • Computer Lab
  • Starting a Writing Center
  • A Note to Instructors
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Literature Review
  • Research Proposal
  • Argument Essay
  • Rhetorical Analysis

Literature Review Assignment


Note to instructors: This literature review assignment may be used as part of an ongoing research project, or it may be used as a stand-alone project. You are encouraged to adopt, adapt, or remix these guidelines to suit your goals for your class.

Rough Draft:

Peer Review:

Final Draft:

This assignment will help you become aware of how writers and researchers consider previous work on a topic before they begin additional research. 

  • Locate a variety of scholarly print and digital sources that represent multiple perspectives on a topic.
  • Analyze sources by critically reading, annotating, engaging, comparing, and drawing implications.
  • Methods of gathering and determining the credibility of sources
  • Strategies for identifying and discussing multiple perspectives in research

A literature review provides context and establishes the need for new research. In your literature review, you will summarize and analyze published research on your topic by identifying strengths, weaknesses, commonalities, and disagreements among your sources.

For this assignment, you will conduct research on your topic and then compose a thoughtful, well-organized literature review that reflects your own analysis of at least five scholarly sources and their contributions to your topic. (Note that a literature review differs from an annotated bibliography, which simply lists sources and summaries one-by-one. A literature review also differs from a research paper because it does not include new arguments or unpublished primary research.)

Your literature review should have three parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.


In the introduction, identify your research topic and provide appropriate background information to clarify the context in which you will be reviewing the sources. You should also identify commonalities, conflicts, and/or gaps in published research. Finally, you should explain the criteria you’ve used to analyze, compare, and contrast sources.

In the body, discuss your sources. Organize your discussion of sources based on a common characteristic such as authors’ purposes, findings, or conclusions; research methodologies; or chronology. Briefly summarize each source and describe the strengths and weaknesses of each source. Identify and analyze each source’s contribution to the topic and address differing viewpoints. Integrate source information effectively using lead-in phrases and citations. 

In the conclusion, discuss the ways your sources have contributed to greater knowledge and understanding of the topic and address shortcomings in the existing research. Answer the following questions: What has your review of the sources revealed or demonstrated about the topic? What new questions that have been raised? What areas need further study? 

Formatting requirements

Follow MLA format. Use black Calibri or Times New Roman font in size 12. Double-space the entire document. Use 1-inch margins on all sides.

Criteria for success

General criteria:.

  • The writing is clear and coherent/makes sense. 
  • The tone and language are appropriate for the audience.
  • The writing adheres to grammar and punctuation rules.
  • All sources are cited properly, both within the literature review and on the Works Cited page. 

In the introduction, you should . . .

  • Identify the general topic or issue you have researched.
  • Provide appropriate background information to clarify the context in which you will be reviewing sources. 
  • Identify overall trends conflicts, and/or gaps in research and scholarship; and/or identify a single problem or new perspective. 
  • Explain the criteria you’ve used to analyze, compare, and contrast sources.
  • When necessary, state why certain sources are, or are not, included. 

In the body, you should . . .

  • Include at least five scholarly sources.
  • Organize discussion of sources logically according to a common characteristic (E.g.: authors’ purposes, findings, or conclusions; research methodologies; or chronology)
  • Briefly summarize individual sources.
  • Describe strengths of each source.
  • Describe weaknesses of each source.
  • Identify and analyze each source’s contribution to the topic. 
  • Address differing viewpoints.
  • Integrate source information effectively using lead-in phrases and citations.

In the conclusion, you should . . .

  • Discuss the ways your sources have contributed to greater knowledge and understanding of the topic.
  • Address shortcomings in the existing research. 
  • Note new information or understanding the literature review has revealed about the topic. 
  • Note new questions that have been raised.
  • Note areas where further study is needed.

The literature review should adhere to all formatting criteria:

  • Follow MLA format throughout the literature review and on the Works Cited page.
  • The entire document should be double-spaced. 
  • The font should be Calibri or Times New Roman in size 12.
  • The margins should be one inch on all sides.


This material was developed by the COMPSS team and is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License . All materials created by the COMPSS team are free to use and can be adopted, adapted, and/or shared as long as the materials are attributed. Please keep this information on materials you adopt, adapt, and/or share. 

Contact Info

Kennesaw Campus 1000 Chastain Road Kennesaw, GA 30144

Marietta Campus 1100 South Marietta Pkwy Marietta, GA 30060

Campus Maps

Phone 470-KSU-INFO (470-578-4636)


Media Resources

Resources For

Related Links

  • Financial Aid
  • Degrees, Majors & Programs
  • Job Opportunities
  • Campus Security
  • Global Education
  • Sustainability
  • Accessibility

470-KSU-INFO (470-578-4636)

© 2024 Kennesaw State University. All Rights Reserved.

  • Privacy Statement
  • Accreditation
  • Emergency Information
  • Reporting Hotline
  • Open Records
  • Human Trafficking Notice

Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Writing a Literature Review

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays). When we say “literature review” or refer to “the literature,” we are talking about the research ( scholarship ) in a given field. You will often see the terms “the research,” “the scholarship,” and “the literature” used mostly interchangeably.

Where, when, and why would I write a lit review?

There are a number of different situations where you might write a literature review, each with slightly different expectations; different disciplines, too, have field-specific expectations for what a literature review is and does. For instance, in the humanities, authors might include more overt argumentation and interpretation of source material in their literature reviews, whereas in the sciences, authors are more likely to report study designs and results in their literature reviews; these differences reflect these disciplines’ purposes and conventions in scholarship. You should always look at examples from your own discipline and talk to professors or mentors in your field to be sure you understand your discipline’s conventions, for literature reviews as well as for any other genre.

A literature review can be a part of a research paper or scholarly article, usually falling after the introduction and before the research methods sections. In these cases, the lit review just needs to cover scholarship that is important to the issue you are writing about; sometimes it will also cover key sources that informed your research methodology.

Lit reviews can also be standalone pieces, either as assignments in a class or as publications. In a class, a lit review may be assigned to help students familiarize themselves with a topic and with scholarship in their field, get an idea of the other researchers working on the topic they’re interested in, find gaps in existing research in order to propose new projects, and/or develop a theoretical framework and methodology for later research. As a publication, a lit review usually is meant to help make other scholars’ lives easier by collecting and summarizing, synthesizing, and analyzing existing research on a topic. This can be especially helpful for students or scholars getting into a new research area, or for directing an entire community of scholars toward questions that have not yet been answered.

What are the parts of a lit review?

Most lit reviews use a basic introduction-body-conclusion structure; if your lit review is part of a larger paper, the introduction and conclusion pieces may be just a few sentences while you focus most of your attention on the body. If your lit review is a standalone piece, the introduction and conclusion take up more space and give you a place to discuss your goals, research methods, and conclusions separately from where you discuss the literature itself.


  • An introductory paragraph that explains what your working topic and thesis is
  • A forecast of key topics or texts that will appear in the review
  • Potentially, a description of how you found sources and how you analyzed them for inclusion and discussion in the review (more often found in published, standalone literature reviews than in lit review sections in an article or research paper)
  • Summarize and synthesize: Give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: Don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically Evaluate: Mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: Use transition words and topic sentence to draw connections, comparisons, and contrasts.


  • Summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance
  • Connect it back to your primary research question

How should I organize my lit review?

Lit reviews can take many different organizational patterns depending on what you are trying to accomplish with the review. Here are some examples:

  • Chronological : The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time, which helps familiarize the audience with the topic (for instance if you are introducing something that is not commonly known in your field). If you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order. Try to analyze the patterns, turning points, and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred (as mentioned previously, this may not be appropriate in your discipline — check with a teacher or mentor if you’re unsure).
  • Thematic : If you have found some recurring central themes that you will continue working with throughout your piece, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic. For example, if you are reviewing literature about women and religion, key themes can include the role of women in churches and the religious attitude towards women.
  • Qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the research by sociological, historical, or cultural sources
  • Theoretical : In many humanities articles, the literature review is the foundation for the theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts. You can argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach or combine various theorical concepts to create a framework for your research.

What are some strategies or tips I can use while writing my lit review?

Any lit review is only as good as the research it discusses; make sure your sources are well-chosen and your research is thorough. Don’t be afraid to do more research if you discover a new thread as you’re writing. More info on the research process is available in our "Conducting Research" resources .

As you’re doing your research, create an annotated bibliography ( see our page on the this type of document ). Much of the information used in an annotated bibliography can be used also in a literature review, so you’ll be not only partially drafting your lit review as you research, but also developing your sense of the larger conversation going on among scholars, professionals, and any other stakeholders in your topic.

Usually you will need to synthesize research rather than just summarizing it. This means drawing connections between sources to create a picture of the scholarly conversation on a topic over time. Many student writers struggle to synthesize because they feel they don’t have anything to add to the scholars they are citing; here are some strategies to help you:

  • It often helps to remember that the point of these kinds of syntheses is to show your readers how you understand your research, to help them read the rest of your paper.
  • Writing teachers often say synthesis is like hosting a dinner party: imagine all your sources are together in a room, discussing your topic. What are they saying to each other?
  • Look at the in-text citations in each paragraph. Are you citing just one source for each paragraph? This usually indicates summary only. When you have multiple sources cited in a paragraph, you are more likely to be synthesizing them (not always, but often
  • Read more about synthesis here.

The most interesting literature reviews are often written as arguments (again, as mentioned at the beginning of the page, this is discipline-specific and doesn’t work for all situations). Often, the literature review is where you can establish your research as filling a particular gap or as relevant in a particular way. You have some chance to do this in your introduction in an article, but the literature review section gives a more extended opportunity to establish the conversation in the way you would like your readers to see it. You can choose the intellectual lineage you would like to be part of and whose definitions matter most to your thinking (mostly humanities-specific, but this goes for sciences as well). In addressing these points, you argue for your place in the conversation, which tends to make the lit review more compelling than a simple reporting of other sources.

Personalised content for

You're viewing this site as a domestic an international student

You're an international student if you are:

  • intending to study on a student visa
  • not a citizen of Australia or New Zealand
  • not an Australian permanent resident
  • not a holder of an Australian humanitarian visa.

You're a domestic student if you are:

  • a citizen of Australia or New Zealand
  • an Australian permanent resident
  • a holder of an Australian humanitarian visa.
  • Alumni & Giving
  • Current students

Search Charles Darwin University

Study Skills

Literature review assignments

All scholars refer to the work of other scholars in their writing. In this way, they participate in a type of academic conversation that helps to build knowledge in their discipline. As a student, you also participate in this conversation by referencing the experts in your field. Literature reviews are one type of assignment that develops your ability to do this.

This material aims to help undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students who need to write a short literature review as a university assignment. If you are a research student, visit Writing a literature review  in Research Communication.

This page will help you to meet your lecturers'expectations by:

self-evaluating your current strengths and weaknesses

considering the purpose of literature review assignments 

following logical steps to write the review

asking questions to evaluate the literature 

organising notes for literature review assignments 

structuring your literature review assignment effectively

choosing appropriate language to report on and critique literature.

Download this summary sheet for your own reference.

Introduction to literature review assignments

This section gives a simple overview of literature review assignments. It includes their purpose, a process for writing a review, questions for evaluating literature, and a method for organising your notes.

reflection icon

Before you continue, reflect on your previous writing experiences and the feedback you have received. How would you rate your ability in the following skills? Rate your ability from ‘good’ to ‘needs development’.

Reflect on your answers. Congratulations if you feel confident about your skills. You may find it helpful to review the materials on this page to confirm your knowledge and possibly learn more. Don't worry if you don't feel confident. Work through these materials to build your skills.

Learn more about literature reviews as an assignment by watching this video: 

literature review assignment sheet

Reflect on what you have learned in the video about literature reviews as an assignment. Select the best sentence out of each pair to create a summary of the main points. 

What's the difference between an essay and a literature review? 

An essay examines a topic : you discuss the topic and the literature is used as evidence to support your ideas.

A literature review examines the literature of a topic : you discuss what has been published on that topic. In fact, we can say that the literature is the topic. 

Before you begin your literature review, you should try to understand the purpose of the task.  

Read the instructions carefully.  

Consider how the task helps you meet the unit learning outcomes. 

Consider how the task might help you to build your knowledge or complete later assessments. 

Reflect: Why do you think your lecturer has set the literature review task? Is it:

a stand-alone assignment? Lecturers create these tasks to help you get to know the important literature in your field. 

a step in a long project? Lecturers create these tasks to ensure you have understood the literature that you will need for a longer or more complex project later.

In brief, when writing a literature review, you must show your understanding of the literature.  

study skills task icon

The following steps can guide you through the process of writing a literature review. You could download this PDF so you can tick off each step as you finish it.

Organising your notes

One key to writing an effective literature review is to store and organise your notes effectively. This section will look at spreadsheets and visual organisers.

One way to organise your notes is to use a spreadsheet. The advantages of spreadsheets are that you can: 

  • choose your headings and refine them as you learn more about the topic 
  • use the search function to identify key words from common ideas in the texts 
  • include hyperlinks to the original documents. 

Read these notes on a student spreadsheet for a literature review on attitudes to bottled water. Click on the hotspots to identify where the student has: 

included the citations for each source 

created columns to note important information such as method, findings and conclusions 

included initial critiques of sources 

noted where references share similar or contradictory ideas 

started to note common concepts that can be used to categorise the references 

Note-taking is quite personal; that is, you need to devise a method that works best for you. If you use spreadsheets, you may adapt your spreadsheet to the requirements of each assignment. Here is a spreadsheet that you can download and adapt:

When you are storing your notes, you could also experiment with visual organisers. These can help you to categorise and compare the literature. For example, you could use:  

Venn diagrams 

Notice how some of the citations from the spreadsheet for the literature review on bottled water are categorised in this venn diagram. 

venn diagram

Tree charts  

Notice how some of the citations from the spreadsheet for the literature review on bottled water are categorised in this tree chart. 

mind map

Imagine you have found another source for a literature review on bottled water. Where would you put this source in the visual organisers?

Other visual organisers include flowcharts, time lines and mind maps. 

Visual organisers are quite personal; that is, you need to devise a method that works best for you. If you use visual organisers, you should adapt them for each assignment. 

One way to find links between the papers you read is to make notes in a table or matrix. You can learn more about using a note-taking matrix from  The Thesis Whisperer.

One student has researched the topic of  success in post-graduate studies . They have created a matrix for storing their notes. A matrix is organised in this way:

  • Each column is for an article that the student has read.
  • Each row is for a sub-topic or idea.

A table with topic and sources

In this matrix, the student has put notes about attrition (drop out rates) in row one. In row two, the student has put notes on peer support for students. 

When the student wrote about attrition, they first read along the row. They compared the information, and noted how the different sources agreed or disagreed with each other. Then, they synthesised this information to create their paragraphs.

Over to you:

Here is a matrix that you can download and adapt:

Note taking matrix spreadsheet.xlsx

Structuring your literature review

Like essays, your literature review will follow a standard thee-part structure: introduction, body and conclusion. The following section will help you organise each part. 

What do you know about writing introductions? Test your knowledge here: 

Now, analyse this sample introduction.

If you need to review effective introductions, visit the Essays page. 

Students who are new to literature reviews may write the body like a list of summaries.  A list of summaries makes your review look like a shopping list of sources.

Literature review written like a shopping list

Remember: a literature review is not a list of summaries!  You need to categorise, organise and synthesise the literature to write a coherent text that draws links between the research. 

synthesised literature review

If you would like to learn more about this, visit the blog  patter  by Pat Thomson. 

Some common organisational methods include: 

 Geographical organisation      Compare studies focusing on different geographical regions   Chronological organisation      Organise the literature by time: start with early research and move towards the most recent research about your topic.      Thematic organisation      Group or categorise the content into common topics and sub-topics.      Methodological organisation      Compare the results that emerge from studies that used different research methods.

Remember: these are not the only ways you can organise your literature review. You may combine these organisational methods or create a new method of your own. 

This task contains images of content pages used in longer literature reviews, such as a thesis chapter. Your assignments will be shorter, but these images provide examples of different ways you could categorise and organise the literature in your review.

When you write the body of your literature review, you will use a range of skills and techniques.  

What do you know about writing conclusions? Test your knowledge here: 

Now read this sample conclusion to identify the elements.

If you need to review effective conclusions, visit the Essays page. 

Language for commenting on literature

If assignments that require you to comment on research (like literature reviews or annotated bibliographies ) are new to you, you may be unsure how to express yourself. The following materials focus on clear and appropriate language choices. 

An important skill for writing literature reviews is the ability to critically evaluate sources. If you are unsure how to do this, ask yourself a series of questions to guide your thinking.  

Review a text  you have selected for your own literature review.

  • Does it pass the CRAAP test?
  • How would you evaluate the quality of the research?

Some students feel concerned about critiquing literature. They confuse critique with criticism and think they don’t know enough to criticise published experts.  

However, critiquing the literature is more than criticism. It involves strategies such as: 

identifying important researchers or research papers 

comparing and contrasting the research 

identifying research with similar findings (or generalising ) 

identifying strengths or limitations in the research 

showing how a research paper contributes to our knowledge 

identifying gaps in our knowledge of a topic. 

Read these literature review extracts and identify the critique strategy the student has used.  Drag the number of the critique strategy next to the most appropriate extract.

This document has some useful language that may help you express these strategies in your own literature review. Download it and put it on the wall near your desk while you are writing.

When you are describing the strengths and limitations of a research paper, you must use appropriate adjectives and verbs. You should also consider their strength. 

Imagine you want to select an adjective to complete this sentence: 

In this ________ study on dolphins, Smith (2022) attempted to... 

Categorise these adjectives according to their strength. 

Now, imagine you want to select a verb to complete this sentence: 

However, Smith’s study __________ the link between dolphin mortality and pollution (2022).    

Categorise these verbs according to their strength. 

Remember, you may make strong language choices, but you must:

  • be careful to match the strength of the language with the strength of the praise or criticism
  • always maintain a respectful tone.

Pay close attention to the language choices in published literature reviews in your discipline.

When you cite the research in your literature review, you may use two citation types: 

  • In general, research prominent citations are most used. This is because our focus is on the research, not on who did the research.  
  • We use researcher prominent citations when we wish to mention the researcher. This may be because their work is particularly noteworthy, or it is important for your assignment.  Researcher prominent citations are more common in the Humanities and Social Sciences than in the STEM disciplines. 

If you use researcher prominent citations, you will use a reporting verb. These verbs describe: 

You may notice that some of the example verbs (like state ) perform more than one function. 

Your choice of reporting verbs can help you demonstrate your critique of the research.  Read these two sentences. Which one shows most confidence in the results of the research? 

The study by Anderson et al. (2017b) suggests  the reduced distribution of humpback dolphins is due to habitat degradation. 

Anderson et al. (2017b) state  that the reduced distribution of humpback dolphins is due to habitat degradation. 

Many readers would feel that b. shows the most confidence.  

Read the following sentences and pay attention to the verb in bold. Can you identify the function and the level of confidence? 

If you want more revision on reporting verbing, visit  Useful language for annotated bibliographies .

Applying your learning

Reflect on what you have learned in this material and consider how you can use it in your own work.

When you write a literature review assignment, you may have some challenges. Common challenges include:

not knowing how to get started 

feeling overwhelmed by the amount of reading you need to do

finding too much or not enough literature in your searches.

keeping track of the literature you find 

not knowing how broad or how narrow to make your review 

knowing which texts are relevant to the topic 

knowing which researchers and texts are important in the field 

not knowing how to organise the literature review 

not understanding complex research articles.

Read this advice to help you manage your literature review successfully. 

Advice for success 

  • Review the task instructions and reread your lecture notes. 
  • Visit the relevant subject guides in the library website. 
  • Consult a librarian about search techniques. 
  • Start by reading tertiary sources (like textbooks) for an overview before searching for primary sources (like journal articles). 
  • Create a spreadsheet to store notes and categorise the literature. 
  • Create an online filing system to store the articles you download. 
  • Create an organisation plan or mind map and then refine it as you learn more. 
  • Use a bibliographic management tool, like Endnote . 
  • Review texts by reading the abstract, key words and headings before deciding to read them. 
  • Use appropriate reading skills, like skimming and scanning, before reading intensively. 
  • Check how often the research articles you find have been cited by others. 
  • Write the aim and scope of the review, put it on the wall near your desk and refer to it often to keep yourself on track 
  • Remember that while you do the literature review, your understanding will improve and change; as your knowledge grows, it is normal to reread articles for new understanding. 

Now, imagine you are facing these challenges. Match each challenge with the most helpful strategies.

If you would like more support, visit the Language and Learning Advisors page. 

Did you know CDU Language and Learning Advisors offer a range of study support options?


a group of learning advisors at waterfront campus foyer

Cookie compliance notice

We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing you agree to our privacy statement . EU/EA members can update your cookie settings here .

Study Site Homepage

  • Request new password
  • Create a new account

The Essential Guide to Doing Your Research Project

Student resources, checklist for writing a literature review.

☑ Read quite a few good, relevant reviews

☑ Identified the variables in your study

☑ Developed a list of synonyms or alternates

☑ Placed variables in a Venn diagram

☑ Compiled/located citations with abstracts

☑ Read abstracts and culled all irrelevant articles

☑ Assessed whether you need to dig deeper or focus your review

☑ Systematically logged your relevant readings

☑ Read and annotated each relevant article

☑ Sorted and organized your annotations

☑ Developed a potential outline for your literature review

☑ Written purposefully

☑ Used the literature to back up your arguments

☑ Adopted an appropriate style and tone

☑ Gotten plenty of feedback

☑ Redrafted (maybe several times)

Writing Center Home Page

OASIS: Writing Center

Common assignments: literature review matrix, literature review matrix.

As you read and evaluate your literature there are several different ways to organize your research. Courtesy of Dr. Gary Burkholder in the School of Psychology, these sample matrices are one option to help organize your articles. These documents allow you to compile details about your sources, such as the foundational theories, methodologies, and conclusions; begin to note similarities among the authors; and retrieve citation information for easy insertion within a document.

You can review the sample matrixes to see a completed form or download the blank matrix for your own use.

  • Literature Review Matrix 1 This PDF file provides a sample literature review matrix.
  • Literature Review Matrix 2 This PDF file provides a sample literature review matrix.
  • Literature Review Matrix Template (Word)
  • Literature Review Matrix Template (Excel)

Related Resources


Didn't find what you need? Search our website or email us .

Read our website accessibility and accommodation statement .

  • Previous Page: Commentary Versus Opinion
  • Next Page: Professional Development Plans (PDPs)
  • Office of Student Disability Services

Walden Resources


  • Academic Residencies
  • Academic Skills
  • Career Planning and Development
  • Customer Care Team
  • Field Experience
  • Military Services
  • Student Success Advising
  • Writing Skills

Centers and Offices

  • Center for Social Change
  • Office of Academic Support and Instructional Services
  • Office of Degree Acceleration
  • Office of Research and Doctoral Services
  • Office of Student Affairs

Student Resources

  • Doctoral Writing Assessment
  • Form & Style Review
  • Quick Answers
  • ScholarWorks
  • SKIL Courses and Workshops
  • Walden Bookstore
  • Walden Catalog & Student Handbook
  • Student Safety/Title IX
  • Legal & Consumer Information
  • Website Terms and Conditions
  • Cookie Policy
  • Accessibility
  • Accreditation
  • State Authorization
  • Net Price Calculator
  • Contact Walden

Walden University is a member of Adtalem Global Education, Inc. www.adtalem.com Walden University is certified to operate by SCHEV © 2024 Walden University LLC. All rights reserved.

Types of Assignment

  • Starting an assignment
  • Academic poster
  • Annotated bibliography
  • Project Proposal
  • Dissertation or final year project
  • Literature review
  • Critical Assessment - Assessing Academic Journal Articles
  • Systematic Review (Postgraduate resource)
  • Presentation

Literature Review Essay or Literature Review Report?

The term "Literature Review" is one you might hear often but its meaning can be unclear, this is because it depends on the assignment it is being attached to.

  • Essays tend to be more topic focussed and use the academic literature to evidence and support different subject points in an attempt to back up the assignment topic.
  • Literature Reviews and Systematic Reviews are more analytical and focus on the articles themselves.

Depending on your level of study and the type of assignment this will indicate the level of analysis required. If you are unsure please speak to a Librarian for support.

The below image / file may be useful in identifying what level you need.

Article Review Scale

  • Article Review Scale

Literature review: Things you need to know...

  • Be clear about the area you want to research - You need a specific title, aims and objectives.
  • Decide on what you need to read - Set yourself some constraints (inclusion criteria) for instance think about: date published, country of origin, which websites are valid?
  • Write in the academic style - You are stating what other people have found out about a particular subject, consequently you will be including lots of citations in your work, and will have a substantial reference list.  

Use the correct format.

  • Introduction - Why this subject is important to investigate?
  • Methodology (or inclusion/exclusion criteria) - What methodology (what steps) did you use?  What have you have done to find published work?  Why did you choose to read the work you did?  Why did you reject some authors?  Where did you look for information?  Why?
  • Findings - What have you found out?  Plan your work into a logical sequence. You will need to consider how you are going to structure this section - Thematically, Chronologically, Methodologically or Theoretical.  Be critical - Highlight exemplary studies.  Are there authors who you think are more scientific than others, more relevant to your objectives? Do some authors deserve more credence than others?  Are there gaps in the research?  Justify your comments. ​​​​​​​
  • Conclusion - After doing all the research what do you conclude?  What is the current thinking?

Contact your Subject Librarian   w ho can help you to develop an effective search strategy.

  • Literature review This factsheet explains what a literature review is and what to include in a literature review
  • Literature Review - findings organisation

Critical Appraisal

Located all of the relevant research papers from your literature search?  

Critical  appraisal is the process used to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the articles you have found. Critical appraisal allows your to critically assess the quality of the Authors work and make judgments on the information presented. For examples authors may exaggerate their findings or there may be flaws in their research.  Critical appraisal assists you in making informed decisions about the quality of the research.

To start your appraisal process it can be useful to define the features within the article. It can be beneficial to use a guide which breaks down the journal elements into different categories, sometimes this is called a "top sheet" or a "review sheet". Check out our guide on Note Taking and in particular the factsheet on Journal not e taking, 

At higher levels of study critical appraisal is often carried out using checklists that help signpost areas to look for while reading a paper. There are different types of checklist depending on the type of research you are reviewing. For more information check out our guide on Systematic Reviews .

  • Journal Review Sheet

Need to know more...

  • External links

Hodgkinson, G. and  Ford,  K. (2015)   What makes excellent literature reviews excellent?  A clarification of some common mistakes and misconceptions .   Journal of OrganiZational Behaviour .  36 (S1) p.S1 - S5 .   (Accessed 20th July 2020)

THE UNC  WRITING CENTRE (2015)  Literature reviews.   (Accessed: 20th July 2020)

  • Cambridge AI Tools LibGuide

Cover Art

Workshop Video

  • << Previous: Dissertation or final year project
  • Next: Critical Assessment - Assessing Academic Journal Articles >>
  • Last Updated: Mar 19, 2024 10:11 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.staffs.ac.uk/assignments
  • Library and Learning Services, Staffordshire University, College Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 2DE
  • Accessibility
  • Library Regulations
  • Appointments
  • Library Search

LLS logo

  • UWF Libraries

Literature Review: Conducting & Writing

  • Sample Literature Reviews
  • Steps for Conducting a Lit Review
  • Finding "The Literature"
  • Organizing/Writing
  • APA Style This link opens in a new window
  • Chicago: Notes Bibliography This link opens in a new window
  • MLA Style This link opens in a new window

Sample Lit Reviews from Communication Arts

Have an exemplary literature review.

  • Literature Review Sample 1
  • Literature Review Sample 2
  • Literature Review Sample 3

Have you written a stellar literature review you care to share for teaching purposes?

Are you an instructor who has received an exemplary literature review and have permission from the student to post?

Please contact Britt McGowan at [email protected] for inclusion in this guide. All disciplines welcome and encouraged.

  • << Previous: MLA Style
  • Next: Get Help! >>
  • Last Updated: Mar 22, 2024 9:37 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.uwf.edu/litreview

U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

The .gov means it’s official. Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.

The site is secure. The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

  • Publications
  • Account settings

Preview improvements coming to the PMC website in October 2024. Learn More or Try it out now .

  • Advanced Search
  • Journal List
  • PLoS Comput Biol
  • v.9(7); 2013 Jul

Logo of ploscomp

Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review

Marco pautasso.

1 Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology (CEFE), CNRS, Montpellier, France

2 Centre for Biodiversity Synthesis and Analysis (CESAB), FRB, Aix-en-Provence, France

Literature reviews are in great demand in most scientific fields. Their need stems from the ever-increasing output of scientific publications [1] . For example, compared to 1991, in 2008 three, eight, and forty times more papers were indexed in Web of Science on malaria, obesity, and biodiversity, respectively [2] . Given such mountains of papers, scientists cannot be expected to examine in detail every single new paper relevant to their interests [3] . Thus, it is both advantageous and necessary to rely on regular summaries of the recent literature. Although recognition for scientists mainly comes from primary research, timely literature reviews can lead to new synthetic insights and are often widely read [4] . For such summaries to be useful, however, they need to be compiled in a professional way [5] .

When starting from scratch, reviewing the literature can require a titanic amount of work. That is why researchers who have spent their career working on a certain research issue are in a perfect position to review that literature. Some graduate schools are now offering courses in reviewing the literature, given that most research students start their project by producing an overview of what has already been done on their research issue [6] . However, it is likely that most scientists have not thought in detail about how to approach and carry out a literature review.

Reviewing the literature requires the ability to juggle multiple tasks, from finding and evaluating relevant material to synthesising information from various sources, from critical thinking to paraphrasing, evaluating, and citation skills [7] . In this contribution, I share ten simple rules I learned working on about 25 literature reviews as a PhD and postdoctoral student. Ideas and insights also come from discussions with coauthors and colleagues, as well as feedback from reviewers and editors.

Rule 1: Define a Topic and Audience

How to choose which topic to review? There are so many issues in contemporary science that you could spend a lifetime of attending conferences and reading the literature just pondering what to review. On the one hand, if you take several years to choose, several other people may have had the same idea in the meantime. On the other hand, only a well-considered topic is likely to lead to a brilliant literature review [8] . The topic must at least be:

  • interesting to you (ideally, you should have come across a series of recent papers related to your line of work that call for a critical summary),
  • an important aspect of the field (so that many readers will be interested in the review and there will be enough material to write it), and
  • a well-defined issue (otherwise you could potentially include thousands of publications, which would make the review unhelpful).

Ideas for potential reviews may come from papers providing lists of key research questions to be answered [9] , but also from serendipitous moments during desultory reading and discussions. In addition to choosing your topic, you should also select a target audience. In many cases, the topic (e.g., web services in computational biology) will automatically define an audience (e.g., computational biologists), but that same topic may also be of interest to neighbouring fields (e.g., computer science, biology, etc.).

Rule 2: Search and Re-search the Literature

After having chosen your topic and audience, start by checking the literature and downloading relevant papers. Five pieces of advice here:

  • keep track of the search items you use (so that your search can be replicated [10] ),
  • keep a list of papers whose pdfs you cannot access immediately (so as to retrieve them later with alternative strategies),
  • use a paper management system (e.g., Mendeley, Papers, Qiqqa, Sente),
  • define early in the process some criteria for exclusion of irrelevant papers (these criteria can then be described in the review to help define its scope), and
  • do not just look for research papers in the area you wish to review, but also seek previous reviews.

The chances are high that someone will already have published a literature review ( Figure 1 ), if not exactly on the issue you are planning to tackle, at least on a related topic. If there are already a few or several reviews of the literature on your issue, my advice is not to give up, but to carry on with your own literature review,

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is pcbi.1003149.g001.jpg

The bottom-right situation (many literature reviews but few research papers) is not just a theoretical situation; it applies, for example, to the study of the impacts of climate change on plant diseases, where there appear to be more literature reviews than research studies [33] .

  • discussing in your review the approaches, limitations, and conclusions of past reviews,
  • trying to find a new angle that has not been covered adequately in the previous reviews, and
  • incorporating new material that has inevitably accumulated since their appearance.

When searching the literature for pertinent papers and reviews, the usual rules apply:

  • be thorough,
  • use different keywords and database sources (e.g., DBLP, Google Scholar, ISI Proceedings, JSTOR Search, Medline, Scopus, Web of Science), and
  • look at who has cited past relevant papers and book chapters.

Rule 3: Take Notes While Reading

If you read the papers first, and only afterwards start writing the review, you will need a very good memory to remember who wrote what, and what your impressions and associations were while reading each single paper. My advice is, while reading, to start writing down interesting pieces of information, insights about how to organize the review, and thoughts on what to write. This way, by the time you have read the literature you selected, you will already have a rough draft of the review.

Of course, this draft will still need much rewriting, restructuring, and rethinking to obtain a text with a coherent argument [11] , but you will have avoided the danger posed by staring at a blank document. Be careful when taking notes to use quotation marks if you are provisionally copying verbatim from the literature. It is advisable then to reformulate such quotes with your own words in the final draft. It is important to be careful in noting the references already at this stage, so as to avoid misattributions. Using referencing software from the very beginning of your endeavour will save you time.

Rule 4: Choose the Type of Review You Wish to Write

After having taken notes while reading the literature, you will have a rough idea of the amount of material available for the review. This is probably a good time to decide whether to go for a mini- or a full review. Some journals are now favouring the publication of rather short reviews focusing on the last few years, with a limit on the number of words and citations. A mini-review is not necessarily a minor review: it may well attract more attention from busy readers, although it will inevitably simplify some issues and leave out some relevant material due to space limitations. A full review will have the advantage of more freedom to cover in detail the complexities of a particular scientific development, but may then be left in the pile of the very important papers “to be read” by readers with little time to spare for major monographs.

There is probably a continuum between mini- and full reviews. The same point applies to the dichotomy of descriptive vs. integrative reviews. While descriptive reviews focus on the methodology, findings, and interpretation of each reviewed study, integrative reviews attempt to find common ideas and concepts from the reviewed material [12] . A similar distinction exists between narrative and systematic reviews: while narrative reviews are qualitative, systematic reviews attempt to test a hypothesis based on the published evidence, which is gathered using a predefined protocol to reduce bias [13] , [14] . When systematic reviews analyse quantitative results in a quantitative way, they become meta-analyses. The choice between different review types will have to be made on a case-by-case basis, depending not just on the nature of the material found and the preferences of the target journal(s), but also on the time available to write the review and the number of coauthors [15] .

Rule 5: Keep the Review Focused, but Make It of Broad Interest

Whether your plan is to write a mini- or a full review, it is good advice to keep it focused 16 , 17 . Including material just for the sake of it can easily lead to reviews that are trying to do too many things at once. The need to keep a review focused can be problematic for interdisciplinary reviews, where the aim is to bridge the gap between fields [18] . If you are writing a review on, for example, how epidemiological approaches are used in modelling the spread of ideas, you may be inclined to include material from both parent fields, epidemiology and the study of cultural diffusion. This may be necessary to some extent, but in this case a focused review would only deal in detail with those studies at the interface between epidemiology and the spread of ideas.

While focus is an important feature of a successful review, this requirement has to be balanced with the need to make the review relevant to a broad audience. This square may be circled by discussing the wider implications of the reviewed topic for other disciplines.

Rule 6: Be Critical and Consistent

Reviewing the literature is not stamp collecting. A good review does not just summarize the literature, but discusses it critically, identifies methodological problems, and points out research gaps [19] . After having read a review of the literature, a reader should have a rough idea of:

  • the major achievements in the reviewed field,
  • the main areas of debate, and
  • the outstanding research questions.

It is challenging to achieve a successful review on all these fronts. A solution can be to involve a set of complementary coauthors: some people are excellent at mapping what has been achieved, some others are very good at identifying dark clouds on the horizon, and some have instead a knack at predicting where solutions are going to come from. If your journal club has exactly this sort of team, then you should definitely write a review of the literature! In addition to critical thinking, a literature review needs consistency, for example in the choice of passive vs. active voice and present vs. past tense.

Rule 7: Find a Logical Structure

Like a well-baked cake, a good review has a number of telling features: it is worth the reader's time, timely, systematic, well written, focused, and critical. It also needs a good structure. With reviews, the usual subdivision of research papers into introduction, methods, results, and discussion does not work or is rarely used. However, a general introduction of the context and, toward the end, a recapitulation of the main points covered and take-home messages make sense also in the case of reviews. For systematic reviews, there is a trend towards including information about how the literature was searched (database, keywords, time limits) [20] .

How can you organize the flow of the main body of the review so that the reader will be drawn into and guided through it? It is generally helpful to draw a conceptual scheme of the review, e.g., with mind-mapping techniques. Such diagrams can help recognize a logical way to order and link the various sections of a review [21] . This is the case not just at the writing stage, but also for readers if the diagram is included in the review as a figure. A careful selection of diagrams and figures relevant to the reviewed topic can be very helpful to structure the text too [22] .

Rule 8: Make Use of Feedback

Reviews of the literature are normally peer-reviewed in the same way as research papers, and rightly so [23] . As a rule, incorporating feedback from reviewers greatly helps improve a review draft. Having read the review with a fresh mind, reviewers may spot inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and ambiguities that had not been noticed by the writers due to rereading the typescript too many times. It is however advisable to reread the draft one more time before submission, as a last-minute correction of typos, leaps, and muddled sentences may enable the reviewers to focus on providing advice on the content rather than the form.

Feedback is vital to writing a good review, and should be sought from a variety of colleagues, so as to obtain a diversity of views on the draft. This may lead in some cases to conflicting views on the merits of the paper, and on how to improve it, but such a situation is better than the absence of feedback. A diversity of feedback perspectives on a literature review can help identify where the consensus view stands in the landscape of the current scientific understanding of an issue [24] .

Rule 9: Include Your Own Relevant Research, but Be Objective

In many cases, reviewers of the literature will have published studies relevant to the review they are writing. This could create a conflict of interest: how can reviewers report objectively on their own work [25] ? Some scientists may be overly enthusiastic about what they have published, and thus risk giving too much importance to their own findings in the review. However, bias could also occur in the other direction: some scientists may be unduly dismissive of their own achievements, so that they will tend to downplay their contribution (if any) to a field when reviewing it.

In general, a review of the literature should neither be a public relations brochure nor an exercise in competitive self-denial. If a reviewer is up to the job of producing a well-organized and methodical review, which flows well and provides a service to the readership, then it should be possible to be objective in reviewing one's own relevant findings. In reviews written by multiple authors, this may be achieved by assigning the review of the results of a coauthor to different coauthors.

Rule 10: Be Up-to-Date, but Do Not Forget Older Studies

Given the progressive acceleration in the publication of scientific papers, today's reviews of the literature need awareness not just of the overall direction and achievements of a field of inquiry, but also of the latest studies, so as not to become out-of-date before they have been published. Ideally, a literature review should not identify as a major research gap an issue that has just been addressed in a series of papers in press (the same applies, of course, to older, overlooked studies (“sleeping beauties” [26] )). This implies that literature reviewers would do well to keep an eye on electronic lists of papers in press, given that it can take months before these appear in scientific databases. Some reviews declare that they have scanned the literature up to a certain point in time, but given that peer review can be a rather lengthy process, a full search for newly appeared literature at the revision stage may be worthwhile. Assessing the contribution of papers that have just appeared is particularly challenging, because there is little perspective with which to gauge their significance and impact on further research and society.

Inevitably, new papers on the reviewed topic (including independently written literature reviews) will appear from all quarters after the review has been published, so that there may soon be the need for an updated review. But this is the nature of science [27] – [32] . I wish everybody good luck with writing a review of the literature.


Many thanks to M. Barbosa, K. Dehnen-Schmutz, T. Döring, D. Fontaneto, M. Garbelotto, O. Holdenrieder, M. Jeger, D. Lonsdale, A. MacLeod, P. Mills, M. Moslonka-Lefebvre, G. Stancanelli, P. Weisberg, and X. Xu for insights and discussions, and to P. Bourne, T. Matoni, and D. Smith for helpful comments on a previous draft.

Funding Statement

This work was funded by the French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB) through its Centre for Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity data (CESAB), as part of the NETSEED research project. The funders had no role in the preparation of the manuscript.

Log in using your username and password

  • Search More Search for this keyword Advanced search
  • Latest content
  • Current issue
  • Write for Us
  • BMJ Journals More You are viewing from: Google Indexer

You are here

  • Volume 24, Issue 2
  • Five tips for developing useful literature summary tables for writing review articles
  • Article Text
  • Article info
  • Citation Tools
  • Rapid Responses
  • Article metrics

Download PDF

  • http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0157-5319 Ahtisham Younas 1 , 2 ,
  • http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7839-8130 Parveen Ali 3 , 4
  • 1 Memorial University of Newfoundland , St John's , Newfoundland , Canada
  • 2 Swat College of Nursing , Pakistan
  • 3 School of Nursing and Midwifery , University of Sheffield , Sheffield , South Yorkshire , UK
  • 4 Sheffield University Interpersonal Violence Research Group , Sheffield University , Sheffield , UK
  • Correspondence to Ahtisham Younas, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's, NL A1C 5C4, Canada; ay6133{at}mun.ca


Statistics from Altmetric.com

Request permissions.

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


Literature reviews offer a critical synthesis of empirical and theoretical literature to assess the strength of evidence, develop guidelines for practice and policymaking, and identify areas for future research. 1 It is often essential and usually the first task in any research endeavour, particularly in masters or doctoral level education. For effective data extraction and rigorous synthesis in reviews, the use of literature summary tables is of utmost importance. A literature summary table provides a synopsis of an included article. It succinctly presents its purpose, methods, findings and other relevant information pertinent to the review. The aim of developing these literature summary tables is to provide the reader with the information at one glance. Since there are multiple types of reviews (eg, systematic, integrative, scoping, critical and mixed methods) with distinct purposes and techniques, 2 there could be various approaches for developing literature summary tables making it a complex task specialty for the novice researchers or reviewers. Here, we offer five tips for authors of the review articles, relevant to all types of reviews, for creating useful and relevant literature summary tables. We also provide examples from our published reviews to illustrate how useful literature summary tables can be developed and what sort of information should be provided.

Tip 1: provide detailed information about frameworks and methods

  • Download figure
  • Open in new tab
  • Download powerpoint

Tabular literature summaries from a scoping review. Source: Rasheed et al . 3

The provision of information about conceptual and theoretical frameworks and methods is useful for several reasons. First, in quantitative (reviews synthesising the results of quantitative studies) and mixed reviews (reviews synthesising the results of both qualitative and quantitative studies to address a mixed review question), it allows the readers to assess the congruence of the core findings and methods with the adapted framework and tested assumptions. In qualitative reviews (reviews synthesising results of qualitative studies), this information is beneficial for readers to recognise the underlying philosophical and paradigmatic stance of the authors of the included articles. For example, imagine the authors of an article, included in a review, used phenomenological inquiry for their research. In that case, the review authors and the readers of the review need to know what kind of (transcendental or hermeneutic) philosophical stance guided the inquiry. Review authors should, therefore, include the philosophical stance in their literature summary for the particular article. Second, information about frameworks and methods enables review authors and readers to judge the quality of the research, which allows for discerning the strengths and limitations of the article. For example, if authors of an included article intended to develop a new scale and test its psychometric properties. To achieve this aim, they used a convenience sample of 150 participants and performed exploratory (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) on the same sample. Such an approach would indicate a flawed methodology because EFA and CFA should not be conducted on the same sample. The review authors must include this information in their summary table. Omitting this information from a summary could lead to the inclusion of a flawed article in the review, thereby jeopardising the review’s rigour.

Tip 2: include strengths and limitations for each article

Critical appraisal of individual articles included in a review is crucial for increasing the rigour of the review. Despite using various templates for critical appraisal, authors often do not provide detailed information about each reviewed article’s strengths and limitations. Merely noting the quality score based on standardised critical appraisal templates is not adequate because the readers should be able to identify the reasons for assigning a weak or moderate rating. Many recent critical appraisal checklists (eg, Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool) discourage review authors from assigning a quality score and recommend noting the main strengths and limitations of included studies. It is also vital that methodological and conceptual limitations and strengths of the articles included in the review are provided because not all review articles include empirical research papers. Rather some review synthesises the theoretical aspects of articles. Providing information about conceptual limitations is also important for readers to judge the quality of foundations of the research. For example, if you included a mixed-methods study in the review, reporting the methodological and conceptual limitations about ‘integration’ is critical for evaluating the study’s strength. Suppose the authors only collected qualitative and quantitative data and did not state the intent and timing of integration. In that case, the strength of the study is weak. Integration only occurred at the levels of data collection. However, integration may not have occurred at the analysis, interpretation and reporting levels.

Tip 3: write conceptual contribution of each reviewed article

While reading and evaluating review papers, we have observed that many review authors only provide core results of the article included in a review and do not explain the conceptual contribution offered by the included article. We refer to conceptual contribution as a description of how the article’s key results contribute towards the development of potential codes, themes or subthemes, or emerging patterns that are reported as the review findings. For example, the authors of a review article noted that one of the research articles included in their review demonstrated the usefulness of case studies and reflective logs as strategies for fostering compassion in nursing students. The conceptual contribution of this research article could be that experiential learning is one way to teach compassion to nursing students, as supported by case studies and reflective logs. This conceptual contribution of the article should be mentioned in the literature summary table. Delineating each reviewed article’s conceptual contribution is particularly beneficial in qualitative reviews, mixed-methods reviews, and critical reviews that often focus on developing models and describing or explaining various phenomena. Figure 2 offers an example of a literature summary table. 4

Tabular literature summaries from a critical review. Source: Younas and Maddigan. 4

Tip 4: compose potential themes from each article during summary writing

While developing literature summary tables, many authors use themes or subthemes reported in the given articles as the key results of their own review. Such an approach prevents the review authors from understanding the article’s conceptual contribution, developing rigorous synthesis and drawing reasonable interpretations of results from an individual article. Ultimately, it affects the generation of novel review findings. For example, one of the articles about women’s healthcare-seeking behaviours in developing countries reported a theme ‘social-cultural determinants of health as precursors of delays’. Instead of using this theme as one of the review findings, the reviewers should read and interpret beyond the given description in an article, compare and contrast themes, findings from one article with findings and themes from another article to find similarities and differences and to understand and explain bigger picture for their readers. Therefore, while developing literature summary tables, think twice before using the predeveloped themes. Including your themes in the summary tables (see figure 1 ) demonstrates to the readers that a robust method of data extraction and synthesis has been followed.

Tip 5: create your personalised template for literature summaries

Often templates are available for data extraction and development of literature summary tables. The available templates may be in the form of a table, chart or a structured framework that extracts some essential information about every article. The commonly used information may include authors, purpose, methods, key results and quality scores. While extracting all relevant information is important, such templates should be tailored to meet the needs of the individuals’ review. For example, for a review about the effectiveness of healthcare interventions, a literature summary table must include information about the intervention, its type, content timing, duration, setting, effectiveness, negative consequences, and receivers and implementers’ experiences of its usage. Similarly, literature summary tables for articles included in a meta-synthesis must include information about the participants’ characteristics, research context and conceptual contribution of each reviewed article so as to help the reader make an informed decision about the usefulness or lack of usefulness of the individual article in the review and the whole review.

In conclusion, narrative or systematic reviews are almost always conducted as a part of any educational project (thesis or dissertation) or academic or clinical research. Literature reviews are the foundation of research on a given topic. Robust and high-quality reviews play an instrumental role in guiding research, practice and policymaking. However, the quality of reviews is also contingent on rigorous data extraction and synthesis, which require developing literature summaries. We have outlined five tips that could enhance the quality of the data extraction and synthesis process by developing useful literature summaries.

  • Aromataris E ,
  • Rasheed SP ,

Twitter @Ahtisham04, @parveenazamali

Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Competing interests None declared.

Patient consent for publication Not required.

Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Read the full text or download the PDF:

Harold and Wilma Good Library logo

SOWK 391: Literature Reviews: Social Sciences (Jarvis): The Assignment

  • The Assignment
  • Finding Information

Assignment description

Methods of Social Research

SOWK 391-02

Literature Review Paper

The purpose of this assignment is to conduct a review of the literature that currently exists on the topic you have chosen. The review must include at least four research articles from peer-reviewed journals that pertain to your topic. You will likely need to supplement your literature review with additional materials (i.e., other journal articles on your topic). This assignment also provides you an opportunity to continue mastering your use of the American Psychological Association (APA) publication guidelines for proper citation of sources.

Basic outline for the literature review:

  • Introduction to the topic (about two paragraphs in length)
  • What is the area of interest?
  • Describe the scope of the problem (i.e., How many individuals are affected by the problem?).
  • Why is this an important problem to study? Why is this an important area of research for the social work profession?
  • Review of the journal articles

In this section, you should synthesize and evaluate the information you have gained from reading the journal articles you chose. You must include a minimum of four research articles , but you can supplement with other peer-reviewed research. Articles should be published within the last five years and never more than 10 years old. Research studies should always be referred to in the past tense as they have already been completed.

Based on your research into the current literature about your topic, what is known about this topic? Where is the research on your topic weak? What is still unknown about this topic?

  • Summary of material across the articles (about one paragraph in length):

Overall, what can you say is known about this topic? Summarize and integrate the knowledge in brief. Is there general agreement among the authors of these journal articles? If there is disagreement, what were some possible reasons for this? What is still unknown about your topic; how does this lead to your proposed study?

  • Formatting requirements:
  • Your paper should be double-spaced , in a 12-point size , using Times New Roman font with pages numbered . Your paper should be 1,000 – 1,750 words in length, excluding your reference page and title page .
  • Follow the American Psychological Association (APA) publication guidelines (6 th edition) for this assignment. Using the APA publication guide, include a reference page for all of the journal articles used in your literature review.
  • See information on the Good Library website on APA citation - http://goshen.libguides.com/content.php?pid=160312&sid=1355879 and the free APA tutorial (slides 13-26) found at http://www.apastyle.org/learn/tutorials/basics-tutorial.aspx
  • Points will be deducted for citation, punctuation, spelling, or grammatical errors.
  • Papers submitted after the deadline will have a grade reduction. Submit your paper via Word document attachment on the Moodle course page under Turnitin, a tool that checks submitted papers against other papers and common websites as a plagiarism deterrent. 
  • Resources :
  • Information about how to submit an assignment through Turnitin can be found at http://www.it.umass.edu/support/moodle/submit-a-turnitin-assignment-moodle
  • Additional information about APA citation of sources can be found on the Purdue OWL Writing Lab: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/ .
  • A good resource to use to avoid plagiarism is Goshen College’s Good Library website, Writing Tools:Plagiarism found at http://libraryguides.goshen.edu/c.php?g=35743&p=227111 .
  • Article Summaries:

For four of the research articles you are using in your literature review, you will complete a summary that requires you to summarize in your own words the most important parts of the articles. Make sure the research articles you are using are full-length articles and not just abstracts. If a required item for the summary is not stated in the journal article, state this in your summary (but double-check this to make sure you are right). Your marked-up journal articles must be turned in along with your summaries.

For each of the journal articles, write a summary sheet with the following information. Head the summary sheet with the APA citation for that article.

Required information :

  • State the purpose of the journal article (i.e., hypothesis, objective, or research question)
  • What type of research design was used? (i.e., qualitative, quantitative, survey, evaluative, single-subject)
  • What are the IV’s and DV’s? If it is not an explanatory study, identify/name the variables.
  • How were the variables measured?
  • Date data were collected (should not be more than 10 years previous)
  • What type of sampling method did the authors use? From what group did they get their sample? How many people participated in the study? What type of people were they?
  • What were the study’s findings?
  • What were the study problems or limitations? What did you see? Which ones did the authors mention?
  • Next: Finding Information >>
  • Last Updated: Nov 5, 2021 10:38 AM
  • URL: https://libraryguides.goshen.edu/litreviewsoc

literature review assignment sheet

Finished Papers

Types of Paper Writing Services

Customer Reviews

literature review assignment sheet

PenMyPaper offers you with affordable ‘write me an essay service’

We try our best to keep the prices for my essay writing as low as possible so that it does not end up burning a hole in your pocket. The prices are based on the requirements of the placed order like word count, the number of pages, type of academic content, and many more. At the same time, you can be eligible for some attractive discounts on the overall writing service and get to write with us seamlessly. Be it any kind of academic work and from any domain, our writers will get it done exclusively for you with the greatest efficiency possible.

  • Words to pages
  • Pages to words



  1. 50 Smart Literature Review Templates (APA) ᐅ TemplateLab

    literature review assignment sheet

  2. 50 Smart Literature Review Templates (APA) ᐅ TemplateLab

    literature review assignment sheet

  3. Good literature review sample. Bad, Better, Best Examples of Literature

    literature review assignment sheet

  4. Literature Review Assignment Instructions

    literature review assignment sheet

  5. 50 Smart Literature Review Templates (APA) ᐅ TemplateLab

    literature review assignment sheet

  6. 39 Best Literature Review Examples (Guide & Samples)

    literature review assignment sheet


  1. Chapter two

  2. Literature Language Teaching Group Assignment

  3. What is a literature review?

  4. Literature and life ASSIGNMENT-2 SOLUTION ||week-02||NPTEL COURSE|| 2024

  5. How to write literature review perfectly



  1. How to Write a Literature Review

    Examples of literature reviews. Step 1 - Search for relevant literature. Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources. Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps. Step 4 - Outline your literature review's structure. Step 5 - Write your literature review.

  2. PDF How to Write a Literature Review

    When a literature review is based largely on description of what is known (summative evaluation) the thrust is on defining and establishing ... Unless your assignment is to do a strict, "literal" paraphrase, you usually don't need to paraphrase the entire passage. Instead, summarize only the material that helps you make

  3. Free Literature Review Template (Word Doc & PDF)

    The literature review template includes the following sections: Before you start - essential groundwork to ensure you're ready. The introduction section. The core/body section. The conclusion /summary. Extra free resources. Each section is explained in plain, straightforward language, followed by an overview of the key elements that you ...

  4. How To Write A Literature Review (+ Free Template)

    Okay - with the why out the way, let's move on to the how. As mentioned above, writing your literature review is a process, which I'll break down into three steps: Finding the most suitable literature. Understanding, distilling and organising the literature. Planning and writing up your literature review chapter.

  5. Literature Review Assignment

    Purpose. This assignment will help you become aware of how writers and researchers consider previous work on a topic before they begin additional research. Locate a variety of scholarly print and digital sources that represent multiple perspectives on a topic. Analyze sources by critically reading, annotating, engaging, comparing, and drawing ...

  6. Writing a Literature Review

    Writing a Literature Review. A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels ...

  7. PDF How to Write a Literature Review

    A literature review is a review or discussion of the current published material available on a particular topic. It attempts to synthesizeand evaluatethe material and information according to the research question(s), thesis, and central theme(s). In other words, instead of supporting an argument, or simply making a list of summarized research ...

  8. Literature review assignments

    structuring your literature review assignment effectively. choosing appropriate language to report on and critique literature. Download this summary sheet for your own reference. Literature Review Assignment summary.pdf (150.6 KB) Introduction to literature review assignments

  9. Checklist for Writing a Literature Review

    Checklist for Writing a Literature Review. Have you: ☑ Read quite a few good, relevant reviews. ☑ Identified the variables in your study. ☑ Developed a list of synonyms or alternates. ☑ Placed variables in a Venn diagram. ☑ Compiled/located citations with abstracts. ☑ Read abstracts and culled all irrelevant articles.

  10. Academic Guides: Common Assignments: Literature Reviews

    A literature review is a written approach to examining published information on a particular topic or field. Authors use this review of literature to create a foundation and justification for their research or to demonstrate knowledge on the current state of a field. This review can take the form of a course assignment or a section of a longer ...

  11. Common Assignments: Literature Review Matrix

    Literature Review Matrix. As you read and evaluate your literature there are several different ways to organize your research. Courtesy of Dr. Gary Burkholder in the School of Psychology, these sample matrices are one option to help organize your articles. These documents allow you to compile details about your sources, such as the foundational ...

  12. Literature review

    Literature Reviews and Systematic Reviews are more analytical and focus on the articles themselves. Depending on your level of study and the type of assignment this will indicate the level of analysis required. If you are unsure please speak to a Librarian for support. The below image / file may be useful in identifying what level you need.

  13. Literature Review: Conducting & Writing

    This guide will provide research and writing tips to help students complete a literature review assignment. Home; Steps for Conducting a Lit Review; Finding "The Literature" Organizing/Writing; APA Style This link opens in a new window; Chicago: Notes Bibliography This link opens in a new window;

  14. Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review

    Literature reviews are in great demand in most scientific fields. Their need stems from the ever-increasing output of scientific publications .For example, compared to 1991, in 2008 three, eight, and forty times more papers were indexed in Web of Science on malaria, obesity, and biodiversity, respectively .Given such mountains of papers, scientists cannot be expected to examine in detail every ...

  15. PDF EDTE 227 Literature Review

    A literature review is a summary of all the literature on a given topic. (Your assignment will be a short review and cannot include all the relevant literature, so select the most important articles.) You are required to review a minimum of 15 articles. The review should be approximately 10 double-spaced, typed pages (not including title or ...

  16. PDF Literature Review Exercise

    Literature Review Exercise Assignment Overview In this assignment you will review some of the scientific literature that covers the environmental science question you have identified in your Observations Exercise. ... Your final literature review written report to be handed in (via E-submit) before class on Dec 7 will not be akin to a ...

  17. Small-Scale Literature Review Assignment

    Assignment Description: For this assignment you are asked to complete a small-scale literature review on an educational topic of your choice. You are asked to locate at least 5 educational journal articles on your topic and write a 4 -5 page literature review on the articles you've selected. Steps to complete your small-scale literature review: 1.

  18. Five tips for developing useful literature summary tables for writing

    Literature reviews offer a critical synthesis of empirical and theoretical literature to assess the strength of evidence, develop guidelines for practice and policymaking, and identify areas for future research.1 It is often essential and usually the first task in any research endeavour, particularly in masters or doctoral level education. For effective data extraction and rigorous synthesis ...

  19. Literature Review Assignment

    This allows for the researcher to be well versed in the general topic, before diving into a specific question. Another important reason for a literature review is to see what has and hasn't been looked into. (Johnson, 2019) This can help develop the scope of research. A literature review can be organized into a couple of simple steps.

  20. 1. Literature Review Assignment Sheet.pdf

    ENG 201 Literature Review, 'drafts' and reflection The first two major assignments--the research proposal/reading list, and the annotated bibliography--have been preparing you for this final assignment/culminating artifact-- the literature review. A literature review is simply a text genre that reviews what researchers have said about a particular research topic in the literature (another ...

  21. The Assignment

    Literature Review Paper . The purpose of this assignment is to conduct a review of the literature that currently exists on the topic you have chosen. The review must include at least four research articles from peer-reviewed journals that pertain to your topic. ... For each of the journal articles, write a summary sheet with the following ...

  22. AI Literature Review Generator

    A literature review is a comprehensive analysis and evaluation of scholarly articles, books and other sources concerning a particular field of study or a research question. This process involves discussing the state of the art of an area of research and identifying pivotal works and researchers in the domain. The primary purpose of a literature ...

  23. Literature Review Assignment Sheet

    Literature Review Assignment Sheet. 100% Success rate. It was my first time... 1 (888)814-4206 1 (888)499-5521. Show Less.